December 31, 2009
December 30, 2009
You Say You Want A Resolution
I don't normally make resolutions. I don't like the fact that, around the 15th day of the year I realize that I've already failed at something. But this year is different because there are some things I really just need to do.
Resolution #1. Work is just work. I've got a lot of pressure on me since a) I take work and the job I do very seriously and b) I'm the sole wage-earner in the family. I take my job - and my own performance - very seriously to the point at which I feel like I'm probably getting fired on any given day. And that's no way to live. I'm smart, with great skills and a good professional network. Even if I get canned - which I won't - I could find another gig. The job is a job and shouldn't define me.
Resolution #2. My ass needs to get in shape. The rest of me too. I don't exercise. I've managed to keep my weight absolutely steady for the past, hell, 20 years. But that's not necessarily a sign of fitness. Skinny people die. So I need to get healthy.
Resolution #3. I will do my very best to not be an asshole. You might think I'm a funny, mild-mannered guy but that's because you don't live with me. In truth I'm a fairly emotional, intense kind of person. And I tend to turn all my brooding outward, externally. And I need to not do that because it makes me an asshole.
Resolution #4. Stop waiting for the perfect moment. I feel like I'm often waiting for a perfect moment. Like, during the time I'm taking off now, I feel like I'm waiting for some greeting-card moment, some perfect confluence of events. And while I'm waiting, I think I forget that this - the shit that's happening now - is life. Live it. Enjoy it. Don't wait for the good stuff. This is the good stuff.
Those are my resolutions. What are yours?
December 29, 2009
The Yearlies: 2009
Somehow we've made it through another year. As such, it's time for the Obligatory Yearly Wrap-Up.
The Year's Best Books. I read 65 books in 2009. Here are my top ten.
- The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death (Charlie Huston)
- The Little Sleep (Paul Tremblay)
- This Is Where I Leave You (Jonathan Tropper)
- Carter Beats The Devil (Glen David Gold)
- Old Man's War (John Scalzi)
- Dark Places (Gillian Flynn)
- The Art of Racing in The Rain (Garth Stein)
- Downtown Owl (Chuck Klosterman)
- Beat The Reaper (Josh Bazell)
- e Squared (Matt Beaumont)
I'll admit right here and now that top honors clearly go to Tropper, Huston and Stein.
The Year's Biggest Book Surprise. What I Think About When I Think About Running (Haruki Murakami). I used to run. I don't run anymore. I get winded taking the trash out. But reading Murakami's thoughts on running were interesting and yielded a little insight into one of my favorite authors.
The Year's Most Disappointing Reads.
- Relentless (Dean Koontz)
- True Blue (David Baldacci)
- Body Copy (Michael Craven)
- Castle (Robert J. Lennon)
- Fault Line (Barry Eisler)
- Snuff (Chuck Palahniuk)
Chuck can do way better. The story is simplistic and predictable. Castle was highly touted but just plain bad. Eisler wrote a great string of novels then came up with Fault Line, a terrible stand-alone. Craven seemed to attempt a Don Winslow rip off (and failed). Of all of these novels, the Koontz novel had the greatest promise but failed in the end due to a cheesier-than-gouda twist which left me cringing and laughing (not in a good way).
The Year's Best Music.
- Kingdom of Rust (Doves)
- Taller Children (Elizabeth & The Catapult)
- Whirlwind (Transatlantic)
- The Incident (Porcupine Tree)
- Say Anything (Say Anything)
- The Excitement Plan (Todd Snider)
- A New Tide (Gomez)
- Backspacer (Pearl Jam)
The Yearly Best Movie. Invictus. This could be due to the fact that it's pretty much the only movie I've seen this year. Seriously. It was great but it also took the title by default.
The Year's Best Beer. Kona Breweries' Fire Rock
The Year's Best People. Their names are familiar - Beth, Mia and Owen. They rock. And so do you. Thank you for reading in 2009. I hope you'll continue to do just that in 2010.
The Yearly Heroic Act. The Miracle On The Hudson
The Yearly Carb. Wegman's parmesan and black pepper baguette.
So, what were your yearlies? What did I miss?
December 28, 2009
Just Say No (But Cain't)
Have you every heard the song Cain't Say No from the musical Oklahoma? Knowledge - even limited knowledge - of these lyrics is integral to today's post. Please take a moment to review.
I knowed what's right an' wrong since I've been teen.
I heared a lot of stories an' I reckon they're true
About how girls are put upon by men.
I know I mustn't fall into the pit
But when I'm with a feller
I'm just a girl who cain't say 'no'
I'm in a terrible fix!
I always say 'Come on, let's go' just when I aughta say 'Nix.'
When a person tries to kiss a girl
I know she aughta give his face a smack!
But as soon as someone kisses me
I somehow sorta want to kiss him back!
I'm just a fool when lights are low
I cain't be prissy an' quaint
I ain't the type that can faint
How can I be what I ain't?
I cain't say 'no!'
Whatcha gonna do when a feller gets flirty
An' starts to talk purty
Whatcha gonna do?
S'pposin' that he says
That your lips are like cherrys,
Or roses, or berries
Whatcha gonna do?
S'pposin' that he says
That yer sweeter than cream
and he's gotta have cream or die?
Whatcha gonna do when he talks that way?
Spit in his eye?
I'm jist a girl who cain't say no,
Cain't seem to say it at all
I hate to disserpoint a beau
When he is payin' a call!
Fer a while I ack refined and cool,
A settin on the velveteen setee
Nen I think of thet ol' golden rule
And do fer him what he would do fer me!
I cain't resist a Romeo
In a sombrero and chaps
Soon as I sit on their laps
Somethin' inside of me snaps
I cain't say no!
Now, you all know Mia's fondness for musicals, most recently Oklahoma itself. And that song, in its wonderfully inappropriate entirety was what Mia chose to sing to nearly everyone to whom I'm related mere moments after Christmas dinner.
Beth and I? Parents of the year.
After Mia's performance, I promptly rear-ended my brother-in-law's wife's father's (I have no idea what that makes us) Lexus. Suffice it to say that Christmas was interesting this year. I'll provide more detail later. I'm taking the week off work to recover. And quite possibly drink.
How were your holidays?
Haiku For Monday #299
A week off. Fuck yeah.
Now the question is: will kids
be tougher than work?
December 24, 2009
December 23, 2009
December 22, 2009
Take A Picture. It'll Last Longer.
The other day I was reading a kids magazine out loud to Mia. There's one particular section - just a bunch of interesting and not so interesting questions - that I absolutely love. I love it because Mia's answers are often insanely awesome, surprising and insightful. Don't get me wrong - I always know she's smart and I'm always aware of the fact that she's a little independent person. But going through this exercise with her always opens my eyes.
Me: Which of the following things are flat - a banana, a piece of paper, a photograph, a ball, and a cake.
Mia: Not a banana. That's silly. A piece of paper is flat and so is a cake most of the time, at least on top.
Me: Right, good job! How about the photograph?
Mia: Silly daddy. A photograph isn't flat.
Me: Well, what is it then?
Mia: On your computer and camera and phone. That's not flat.
You know, she's got me there. You and I think of photographs as flat pieces of paper your parents told you not to smudge with your fingers. Our kids, though, think of them as these virtual illusions that appear on computer screens, smartphones and the tiny LCD screens on the backs of digital cameras. And instead of waiting a week or two to see the results of a vacation photoshoot, or getting your Christmas pictures back in the new year, they expect immediate gratification. Which they get.
Mia and I have had other similar conversations in the last couple of days. We were reading a book about a woman who long ago traveled from a farm to a small village to get supplies. Her walk was two days long. Mia wondered aloud why she didn't just take a car. When I explained she helpfully suggested that the woman should have taken a scooter.
Mia has an iPod Touch. Okay, I have one that I loaned to Mia. Mia loves music, especially before bed and while she's falling asleep but most of her CDs are hopelessly scratched. Tired of trying to fix them and not needing the iPod after my recent iPhone acquisition, I handed it off to Mia. Her ability to master the thing and find what's she's looking for is scary-good. And yet it's kind of sad. I mean, I grew up with the phase-out of records and, later, cassettes. Now my collection is comprised of CDs that I'm in the process of totally digitizing. Records and tapes will be totally foreign to my kids and CDs will be something they look back on in fits of nostalgia.
I'm amazed what's been accomplished in my lifetime. Hell, I'm pretty sure I couldn't have conceived of an iPhone ten years ago. Yeah, we don't have those jetpacks everyone was promising, I'm still waiting on the opening of a moonbase and I'd dig having my own personal robot servant but still things are pretty good. As one technology-obsessed friend of mine said the other day when we were talking about something cool (I can't recall what), I loving living now. And I agree. But living now means we have to leave a little of yesterday, like photographs and records, behind. And I guess I'm okay with that. For the most part.
What do you wish your kids (or young people in general) got the chance to experience that they won't because of technology's inevitably quick march? What outmoded pieces of technology do you miss the most?
December 21, 2009
Let It Snow (But This Is Ridiculous)
Like the song says, the weather outside this weekend was frightful but I found our lack of a fireplace (and, in turn, a fire so delightful) somewhat disappointing. This is what my backyard looks under two feet of snow. Seriously. Two feet. Who knew?
On Friday night the snow started as predicted. And it continued all day Saturday into Saturday night finally stopping in the wee hours of Sunday morning. When all was said and done, we were left with a two foot blanket of snow covering everything. Its really tough to mentally picture what two feet of snow looks like until you set your two foot tall child down in said snow and the only way you can tell where he is is due to the hole and the spiky blond hair sticking up out of it. It never snows this much in one shot around here.
We all bundled up several times, headed outside, and rolled around in it. Unfortunately it was a dry snow, not very good for making snowballs or snowmen but that didn't really slow us down. And when we were through, we headed inside to the warmth of the house and comforted ourselves with hot chocolate, cheesy Christmas specials, pizza and plenty of Wii.
Of course, there was plenty of shoveling. Three passes at the driveway and sidewalks to be exact. As a result, I'm pretty sure I need traction. Or, at the least, a half dozen Advil and a massage from my hot wife. Okay, screw the Advil, I'll just take the hot wife massage.
The snowbound weekend was nice. I could have done without the shoveling but I'll take the quality time with my family any day.
What were you guys up to this weekend? Any winter weather where you are?
Haiku For Monday #298
Twas four days before
Christmas. And I'm working. Give
me some damn coffee.
December 18, 2009
The Weeklies #113
The Weekly Grand Total. $230.85. Just by commenting - thanks to the donation matching - you guys managed to raise $230.85 for Fisher House in a 24 hour period. That, my friends, is awesome. Yay you.
The Weekly Time Waster. Multitask.
The Weekly Read. It's strange, reading. When I go from one book to the next, I invariably find some odd coincidence linking them together. I went from one novel about a plague of sleeplessness to D.C. Pierson's The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To which is precisely what it sounds like. On the surface, Pierson's book seems like a typical Salingeresque coming of age story about two kids obsessed with comic books navigating the choppy waters of adolescence. But somewhere in the second half of the novel, things take a strange turn. I won't spoil it for you but I will say that I'm not entirely sure I understood exactly what happened. That didn't detract from the joy I took in reading the story. I liked it very much. So give it a shot.
The Weekly Music. In a bizarre moment of boredom-fueled channel surfing, I stumbled across The Sing Off. And, for some reason, stopped. I might have been a little drunk. Anyway, the premise of the show is just like every other so called talent-based reality show in the history of the universe. People - in this case acapella groups - perform, three judges critique them, one gets booted. Lather, rinse, repeat. This one was especially disheartening because of one of the judges. The great Ben Folds. I love Ben Folds. He's talented, he's quirky, he's just all around awesome. And he has, apparently, sunk to a new low - hastily thrown-together craptastic talent contest hosted by former Mr. Jessica Simpson. Now, he was really good as a judge but what a sell-out.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. I missed this late last month but it's still worth highlighting. Kirk Cameron - he of Growing Pains fame - found god some time ago. And now he wants everyone to know about it. His latest crusade? Putting down Darwin. He's even gone so far as to link Darwin to Hitler. Cameron is on a college tour these days trying to convince others that Darwin is just flat wrong. Unfortunately these events are typically town hall-style forums and Cameron should probably not field questions. I say that based on the following:
Student: Science is based on evidence, where religion is based on faith.
Cameron: But Darwinism is extremely based on faith
Student: Not really, it's based on a lot of evidence.
The Weekly Hypothetical. You could have any single talent. You could be a brilliant painter, a stunning pianist, or have the singing voice of an angel. But only for two years. Of course, you could turn down the talent entirely. Do you do it? And what talent do you pick up if you do?
December 17, 2009
I'm afraid of spiders, dislike flying and have an absurd aversion to leftovers. But few things terrify me. The single thing that does is old age. Or, rather, becoming a senile, Alzheimers-ridden old man, with the full understanding that my life is slipping away from me and the inability to do a damn thing about it
I wish I could pretend to be braver, stronger than this, but the truth is my grandfather freaked me out. Several years ago, he began a fairly steep and swift decline into an Alzheimer's haze. The changes were profound, mentally and physically recognizable. But it was the unpredictability this brought that scared me the most. The toll the illness took on my family was massive. As was the sense of relief when his suffering ended. To this day, I still have dreams in which my grandfather switches back and forth, between his normal personality and the one in which the disease took hold.
My great uncle was an Air Force fighter pilot in Europe during World War II. He was later a diplomat in Poland. My mom recalls times he visited them, the dashing uniformed soldier. My great aunt performed his intelligence debriefing when he returned to the States during the war. That's how they met. Last week she died. Her decline was neither steep nor fast. Alzheimer's took its time catching up with her and when it finally did, it refused to let her grow gracefully. She spent the last year of her life in bed. I doubt she knew what was happening to her. I hope she didn't know what was happening to her.
My great uncle, the once-dashing soldier, spent the last week asking where his Mary was. He was told, he cried, then he forgot. Yesterday, she was buried. Beth and I attended the services, watching this once-debonair man get wheeled into the church, watching him reduced to tears as he missed his wife. But he is doing better. We spent some time together yesterday, laughing, talking. He's planning on spending Christmas with us, looking forward to seeing the kids, hoping to spend time with family.
Where does old age rate in your list of fears? Or does it?
December 16, 2009
You guys rock. I'm not just saying that. I have a lot of evidence. Among it, the holiday donation you helped me make last year. Though some simple commenting and a little word-of-mouth (or keyboard), we raised nearly $500 for Fisher House. If you're not in the know about Fisher House, you should be. The organization houses military families close to the hospitals and recovery centers in which their battle-wounded loved ones are treated. And we raised nearly $500 for them in 24 hours. See what I mean? You rock.
Over the last year some things have changed a great deal - we have a new administration, the economy tanked more than we thought possible, and the jobless rates soared. But some things didn't change at all, like the two ongoing wars each with casualties. And each of those casualties have names and faces and people who love them. So we're doing it again.
For each comment I get on this entry in the next 24 hours, I'll donate 35 cents to Fisher House. Don't forget - anonymous and repeat comments won't count. If you guys totally blow up my comment box, well, I've got a cap in mind for the donation. I do, after all, have a wife, two kids, and a car that's surely going to implode over the next year. So comment recklessly and tell your friends to do the same.
Update: Brooke has offered to match my donation (as she did last year because she totally rocks). So, basically, each comment you make snags $0.75. As a result, you should tell all your friends and comment with wild abandon. So, lets see it!
Update Part Two: Son of Update. ClumberKim has added $0.25 to each comment bringing our grand total (if I'm doing my math right) to $0.95 a comment. That's almost a buck a comment!
December 15, 2009
I got the munchies, saw a fortune cookie and couldn't resist. After cracking it open, I got the distinct feeling something got lost in translation.
As a people, I think we're becoming cheaper. The economy pushed us further in that direction but it was going on long before that. Granted, we do buy $1000 flat screen TVs on which you could watch Family Guy from the house down the street. And people buy cars that cost as much as every car I've ever driven combined. But still, we're cheap. How else could you explain eBay or Craigslist?
A few years ago, Beth was searching for a laptop. We checked eBay and spent a whopping $200 on a laptop that lasted about two years. In my mind, unless you want something super-fancy, $100 a year isn't a bad investment. So when that laptop invariably crapped out in spectacular blue-screen fashion a couple years ago, we did the same thing. Recently, it became clear that Owen was done with his crib. Instead of buying a twin bed (we haven't really decided what we want to do with his room), Beth found a toddler bed online for $25. Even if it lasts just a month (and I'm sure it will last longer since Owen loves it and it's a pretty nice bed, though not nearly large enough to accommodate all the crap Owen apparently needs to take to bed with him, or it turns out to be an evil mutant bed which will terrorize us and our children from the rest of our lives), that can't be a bad investment.
And all this convenient cheapness is great. Until it gets a little creepy.
The other day, I was surfing a local Craigslist-like site and ran across something that chilled me to my very core and then chilled me some more.
For sale - collection of assorted brands and sizes of toothpastes. Approximately fifteen, all slightly used. $12 or best offer.
In a word, ew. In three words, what the fuck? Who wakes up one morning and says, "hey, I have a dozen or so tubes of toothpaste around here and I'm sure someone must want them." And also, who has a dozen tubes of slightly used toothpaste lying around? Showing up at this guy's door sounds like the best way to get a nose full of chloroform and wake up in a basement, shirtless and afraid, given the task of lotioning this dude's skin suit, made from the other poor bastards who decided they too wanted some cheap-ass toothpaste. But of course assorted brands and sizes of toothpaste could very well be some impenetrable internet code for 25 year old blond coed available for handjobs and jello wrestling. Maybe I'm just not up on the lingo.
Do you bargain hunt on the web? What's the best deal you've ever gotten? And the weirdest thing you've ever seen for sale?
December 14, 2009
Random Things From The Weekend
So, what was up this weekend? Allow me to share in small bite-sized nuggets. The only way I could write or even read early on a Monday morning.
Christmastime Is Here
It's officially Christmas, for us, at least. Our tree is up, Christmas music is playing and I've DVRed a bunch of my favorite cheesy animated holiday specials. Of course, Owen has developed a passion for undecorating the tree. Which is fun. And not at all annoying. Gifts are all acquired, though not all of them are wrapped (as with the undecorating, we believe premature unwrapping might be something of an issue). You know what? I absolutely love this time of year.
As you may recall, last week's birthday festivities were overcome by snow. Meaning, we didn't get out. This weekend we fixed all that. On Saturday night, my folks came over and hung out with the kids while Beth and I went out or a nice dinner and a movie. Both were excellent. We managed to find an Indian place that might be nearly as good as our favorite place which was literally torn down to build a parking lot about four years ago. The movie was also pretty good. I'd never have voluntarily gone to see Invictus (rugby and Nelson Mandela - two things I don't have any vast interest in) but I left the planning up to Beth and she made a damn good choice.
Neil LaBute Can Kiss My Dramatic Ass
I think I've had it with Neil LaBute. He's supposedly some hot-shit playright and director who is critically acclaimed and dramatically well thought of. I read a book of his a couple years back and thought it was a waste of paper. Beth and I rented and watched The Shape Of Things this weekend. It was a waste of film. And time. It was so terrible, it made the always-awesome Paul Rudd appear sucky.
De-Kidding Of Cactus Manor
I feel like I spent a good portion of the weekend un-kidding my house. Since Owen can handle the stairs, I took down the gate at the bottom. It's been a while since there hasn't been a gate there. It's a little strange. And then Owen and I disassembled his crib. That's right. He's digging a brand new big-boy bed. (Well, not quite brand new - Beth scored it for $25 on Craigslist.) Regardless, my kids are growing up. And it's kinda freaking me out.
So, what were your weekends all about? Are you done with your holiday shopping?
Haiku For Monday #297
I'll warn you now, I'm
already in holiday
mode. My brain's checked out.
December 11, 2009
The Weeklies #112
The Weekly Beer. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
The Weekly Time Waster. Perfect Balance
The Weekly Amazing Fact. Americans consume 34 gigs of data per day.
The Weekly iPhone App. Good Guide (iTunes link). Even better is the corresponding website - Good Guide. The site and the app rate products. This is nothing unique. But they rate the products against a number of really interesting criteria. Cereal, for instance, is rated by nutrition, vitamins, those kinds of things, as well as the health benefits given to it's employees and the manufacturer's record of charitable giving and environmental pollution. It's a really interesting way to look at the stuff you consume.
The Weekly Read. Quite a few years back I read e by Matt Beaumont. It was basically a story about a dysfunctional advertising agency told through emails between various employees. I remember it being good but not much more than that. I was sent an advance copy of e Squared, Beaumont's long-awaited follow-up to e. And it is a) the funniest book I've read all year and b) among the funniest books I've read in the last five years. As with e, Beaumont tells his story through email but adds text messages and IMs to the list of story-telling devices. Quite a few of the folks from e are featured but it doesn't at all matter if you haven't read it. e Squared is totally off the wall, peopled with strange characters. And you'd think that telling a story through email, text messages, and IMs would be lead to difficulty getting a true picture of the characters but, in fact, it's quite the opposite. The devices allow you to see multiple sides of a character. I think I have a good sense of humor but I rarely laugh out loud when reading even the funniest of books. And this one had me absolutely cracking up.
The Weekly Schadenfreude. If you've been paying any attention to the news, you'll know that the Women Who Are Not His Wife Who Tiger Has Been Banging count is up to eleven (!!). Who knew golfers were that popular with the ladies? Oh, and Tiger is seriously fucked. I'm speaking metaphorically. We all know he's been quite literally fucked a lot lately.
The Weekly Hypothetical. If you were, hypothetically, working from home and you'd just - again, hypothetically - hauled your ass out of bed and made yourself your first hypothetical cup of coffee and come to the sudden and hypothetical realization that you had no brilliant hypothetical question for your traditional Friday column, would you:
a) risk possible brain sprainage by trying, quickly, to come up with something brilliant and witty;
b) surf the internet for questions to pose and pass them off as your own; or
c) punt the whole thing because your readers are awesome and they will completely understand that if you can barely pee before you've had your coffee, you sure as hell can't come up with anything brilliant?
December 10, 2009
10 Things I Noticed When I Visited My Shrink
I saw my shrink yesterday. This would not be notable except for the fact that I rarely see my shrink anymore. While many of you might argue about my relative mental health, my shrink and I have deemed it sufficient to space visits out quite a bit. In this case by a couple of years. It's funny, seeing my shrink, because I forget what he's really like and, instead, build some mental image of him that's about 50% bullshit, a fact I'm reminded of when a year has passed and I go see him again.
- My shrink isn't nearly as good looking as I give him mental credit for. He's about as tall as he is wide. Or, rather, as wide as he is tall. Whichever of these indicates that he's short and tubby.
- My shrink looks more like a lumberjack than someone you'd entrust with your mental well-being. We wears thick khakis, work boots and flannel shirts.
- For someone who has structured their entire livelihood around the organization of the mind, my shrink is distressingly disorganized. Piles - piles, not stacks - of paper are heaped upon his desk, threatening to fall on and crush anyone who happens to be standing nearby when gravity prevails. His medical degrees and citations, of which there are many, are hung on the walls haphazardly, though many are on the floor leaned against the wall.
- My shrink requires a lot of books to be a shrink. I'm not sure if that makes me more or less confident in his abilities.
- Piles of samples of anti-depressant meds are deposited in various places throughout his office. Some are in handy single packs in big Tupperware containers. It's like he decided to give anti-depressants out for Halloween but no one rang the doorbell.
- My shrink is obsessed with my weight. Every time I visit, he first asks that I remove my shoes and jump on a scale. I am apparently one of the only people taking the medication I'm taking who hasn't gained weight and can still get a hard-on.
- My shrink is clearly very bright. His degrees are everywhere and there are many of them. His citations for heading psychiatric departments across the country are bountiful. His recognition for leading big brained psychiatric groups is widespread.
- Despite his singular lack of organizational skills pertaining to items in the physical world, my shrink is diligent about entering all information into a vast computer database.
- My shrink is concerned with both air quality and temperature. He has two visible means of telling the air temperature in his office and two air purifiers.
- My shrink a credit card payment machine and has a sign on his desk that says We Honor Mastercard and Visa. I'm not sure what that means.
December 9, 2009
Oh Well, Whatever...
I'm reading Chuck Klosterman's Eating The Dinosaur and I'm convinced that Klosterman possesses the ability to read minds because in that book are two essays, both of which touch something (or rather, two things) I've been meaning to write for a while.
One: Nirvana (the band) and their relative greatness.
Two: You can't unlearn something once you've learned it, approach something fresh after it's already been approached.
After touring behind the often overlooked Bleach, Nirvana reassembled itself (and added drummer Dave Grohl) and recorded what would become the post-punk Thriller. They called it, unassumingly, Nevermind. Which would come to represent Cobain's reaction to the critical praise lavished on the album.
In 1991, when Nevermind was released, I was in the throes of the whole Seattle grunge scene. I bought every album remotely connected to the scene including anything released on Sub Pop. So I knew who Nirvana was and picked up a copy of Nevermind as soon as it hit the street. I had the Pearl Jam "Alive Guy" poster on my bedroom wall and I owned more flannel than a lumberjack. I loved Nevermind's naked aggression and the unlikely hooks it seemed to possess but while I listened to it often, I tended to drift back to Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, Temple of the Dog, Mudhoney. And then Pearl Jam's Ten came out which shocked and awed me. The resulting feud that later erupted between Eddie Vedder and Curt Cobain did nothing to move me into the Nirvana camp; in fact it pretty much swayed me the other way. That's not to say I didn't like Nevermind. I just liked other things better.
In the intervening years, enough people - both in the industry and outside of it - have lavished so much praise for Nevermind, heralding it a musical game-changer, that I thought, perhaps, I hadn't heard the same album or had been listening to it incorrectly (though I'm not sure I know how to listen any differently than I normally do). So I decided that I should give it a listen, eighteen years later, with my 37 year-old ears. Here's what I found out:
- I can't unlearn this album. I can't Men In Black my brain and experience Nevermind fresh. I can't shake the memory of listening to Lithium on cassette with my 1989 Jeep Cherokee stereo cranked as loud as it could possibly go, the cold weather coming through the little triangular window by the sideview mirror opened so I smoke a Camel Light. I'd like to. I'd like to shake whatever musical and emotional baggage have accumulated over the intervening 18 years and get a shiny new take on Nevermind. But I can't. It's not possible.
- I'm not trying to boast but there's no single guitar piece on this album that I couldn't have done at age 17. Cobain is not a guitar god. A seventeen year old with a beat up used black Ibanez guitar should not be able to play every single note of a guitar god upon first listen.
- Post-punk alternative whatever-it-was shouldn't sound shiny. And Nevermind is too shiny. It became a tome of anthems against the status quo yet its production values were the status quo. Because it was a product meant to be consumed and consumed in large volumes. (This is, coincidentally, the same thing that bothers me about Ten. Ten was a nearly perfect album except that it's production severely dates the album. The Ten Redux does a great job fixing these flaws.) In fact - and as Klosterman points out exhaustively in Eating The Dinosaur - Nevermind's successor, In Utero, was specifically designed to be hard to listen to, to be challenging, to be counter-culture, in reaction to the success of Nevermind and, quite possibly, just to sound cool to those who thought they might have sold out. Bleach is a far better album. It's raw and brutal and honest and the music was never hidden behind gloss heaped on songs in the studio. Nevermind was too shiny for the counterculture it ended up representing. Bleach was far more perfect because of its imperfections.
- Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters is a better band. Sure, they're not as edgy. They're not as counterculture. They're not mysterious and temperamental - in fact, they're quite nice - and they rarely smash their shit on stage. But where Nevermind's cuts are clearly from the early 90's and stand as reminders of a certain time and a certain place - replete with certain societal dissatisfaction - the Foo Fighters somehow manage to come up with near-timeless songs. I'd argue that Learn to Fly - one of my favorites - could have been a massive hit in the 70s and would have been equally popular in the 80s. In the 90s it would have stitched the gap between hair metal and grunge quite nicely.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this. Nevermind is overhyped. But that doesn't mean it isn't good. It just means that it's less good and more flawed than the world has been led to believe. And regardless of it's relative goodness, you can't unring a bell. You can't go back and listen to a piece of music or read a novel or watch a movie without bringing who you are now into the equation. And that's okay because music - Nevermind or whatever - is really the sum of what's committed to tape and what you, the listener bring to the experience.
What do you think is the most overhyped album in history? And what do you wish you could unlearn?
December 8, 2009
When I was, I don't know, around ten, I had my heart set on getting a helicopter for Christmas. Not a real helicopter - that would be silly. Instead it was this foot-long helicopter that was on some sort of wire, fixed to a base that looked like a city. It went around in circles and you could raise or lower it, pretending to pick up fugitives from justice, organs harvested for transplant...something like that. I have no idea why I wanted it but I did and making sure that it was under the tree was the single most important thing in my ten year-old life from Halloween through December 24th.
My parents came through. Lo and behold on Christmas morning there it was under the tree complete with imaginary people requiring airlifts to safety. And once I got my hands on it, it was cool. For about a week.
Anticipation is strange, a mixed blessing really. The things you dread the most, for the longest, turn out to be a bit less horrible than expected. By the same token, the things you want for so long invariably turn out to be a bit less cool than they'd been in your head. And I'm sure - just as I know this about the stuff I know Mia wants so desperately for Christmas - that my parents understood this. So I try to keep this in mind. Instead of viewing things through the lens of my now 37 year old self, I have to put on my two and four year old glasses. If my parents had done that, that helicopter would have never been mine and I wouldn't have learned such a valuable lesson.
What's the Christmas present you most looked forward to as a kid? And what do you want this year?
December 7, 2009
I've discovered something of a trend with weather and my birthday - it snows every odd year. In 2003? It snowed. Same for 2005 and 2007. And on Saturday despite the forecast for a light dusting, we managed to get a good solid six inches. Not an impressive measurement if you're a porn star, but pretty good for early December snowfall.
I grew up in Texas. It snowed once while I was living there, maybe an eighth of an inch. Schools were closed so all the kids could have the lamest snowball fights ever. So, I love snow. I like living in a place that gets snow. The novelty has yet to wear off. Snow on my birthday seems cool. Or did until it canceled Beth's plans for an evening out to celebrate my birthday. I was kinda bummed. But we had a great time anyway. And our evening out has been rescheduled for next weekend.
This weekend was obviously filled with snow-focused things. We made snowpeople, had snowball fights, and went sledding. A lot of hot chocolate was consumed, as was birthday came, stuffed peppers (my favorite meal which Beth makes every year for my birthday) and homemade chili. Lots of Wii was played - Beth and the kids gave me Wii Resort for my birthday - and as a result I kick some serious ass at table tennis. Instead of a night on the town, we caught the latest James Bond flick. And took care of Owen after he came down with a fever.
Thirty-seven is a whole lot less glamorous than 27. Not that we were jet-setting around the globe ten years ago but I've got different priorities and a whole hell of a lot more gray hair. But I'm okay with that. Because I've got two more wonderful kids than I had then, a wonderful life and I find that those different priorities suit me. Though I'm not pleased about being a year closer to forty. I'm happy to have that problem as opposed to the opposite, though.
Haiku For Monday #296
Oh crap. You mean I've
got to work today? You've got
to be shitting me.
December 4, 2009
The Weeklies #111
The Weekly Birthday. Mine, tomorrow.
The Weekly Age.
24...no... 27...alright 32...okay 37 for realz.
The Weekly Time Waster. It's called Christmas shopping.
The Weekly Read. If you've been reading long enough, you'll understand my deep and abiding love for Charlie Huston's novels. He wrote maybe the best mystery trilogy ever - The Henry Thompson Trilogy consisting of Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things and A Dangerous Man - and he continues to write a series devoted to a private investigator who just so happens to be a vampire (and why these novels have flown under the radar with the recent vampire craze, I'll never know because they're awesome and I don't even like vampire books). Huston has also written three standalone novels - The Shotgun Rule (which I didn't love), The Mystic Art of Erasing All Signs of Death (which I absolutely loved) and Sleepless (which I just finished). I got my hands on an advanced copy of Sleepless and was jazzed about it. Until I read the first couple of paragraphs. It was obvious that I was not reading your typical Huston novel. It seemed to take place in the near future, revolved around an epidemic which rendered people sleepless (a condition which was maddening in the short term and fatal in the long run) and it didn't seem to have the typical Huston feel and style. But I continued because it's Huston. When I turned the final page last night, I felt like I'd read some crazy hybrid of William Gibson and Stephen King though Huston's style and voice were obvious. I felt like the book's 350 pages told a story much more vast. And despite my initial struggle, I loved the novel.
The Weekly Way to Get John Mellencamp to Quit Smoking. If Mellencamp's son gets 1,000,000 members on his Facebook group page, Mellencamp has vowed to finally quit.
The Weekly No-Shit Headline. Courtesy of CNN:
The Weekly Schadenfreude. No one can escape the media frenzy over the Tiger Woods accident. And I find it hilarious - both the media coverage and the accident itself. Apparently we're all suckers for a fender-bender so long as it involves an A-list celebrity. And apparently Tiger is a sucker for models, since he seems to sleep with them frequently despite also being married to one. Why do we expect celebrities to be infallible? And why do we give a rats ass when they run into fire hydrants?
The Weekly Hypothetical. If, on your next birthday, you could choose what age you wanted to be, what age would you choose? And why?
December 3, 2009
The Cure for What Ales Ya
...taking a momentary diversion from discussing my hair and Christmas music to focus on something really important. Beer.
A couple years back - after being on the wagon for fifteen years for no apparent reason - I decided I'd start drinking again. Not like binge drinking. I'm not playing beer pong with frat boys, just having about a beer or two in the evening. And it was nice rediscovering beer. Because I really like it. I think I have a better appreciation for wine aficionados because I feel the same way about beer. And it tends to be cheaper.
Owen and I went to a local beer and wine store this weekend. We were both pretty thrilled. Me, I enjoy checking out bottles of beer and wine, looking at the labels, finding rare varieties from far-flung places. Owen, well, Owen just loves beer for some strange reason. Sitting in my car, on the way to the store, I told him where we were going. He screamed "buy beer! buy beer!" the remainder of the way there. And during most of the time we spent inside the store. But then there was the inevitable bad parent moment as I emerged from the store with a 12-pack and two cases of beer and three bottles of wine in a cart also occupied by my 21 month-old. I got some strange looks. But hey, at least I wasn't wearing a wife-beater and showing off a tribal tattoo on my biceps.
Anyway, if it wasn't clear that I like beer, all you really have to do is open up the fridge in our garage.
Pictured: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Kona Brewing Company Fire Rock Pale Ale, Red Hook Winter Hook, Red Hook Autumn Ale (and a couple onesies and twosies thrown in).
I have my favorites - Red Hook ESB, the aforementioned Fire Rock, Old Dominion's Dominion Lager - and a lot of beers that I think just plain suck like Killian's Irish Red, anything with a Heinikein label (which is funny because yesterday, in the middle hair picture, I'm holding a bottle of Heinikein which might be why I looked so sad) and MGD, which used to be a college favorite. Of course there are a lot of beers right there in between.
Do you have any liquid vices? Or anything you'd call yourself an aficionado about? And for those of you who similarly dig beer, what should I be sure to try?
Oh, before you answer those, here's the post haircut shot. Obviously I went somewhere in the middle. I'll call it shortish.
December 2, 2009
Have A Merry Old-School Christmas
I am hopelessly old-school when it comes to Christmas.* I tend to listen to nothing recorded after 1976 or watch anything filmed after 1960. You can keep your Lady Ga-Ga and Justin Timberlake holiday singles. Your Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens. Your Home Alone, your Santa Clause. Give me Dean and Frank and Bing. Give me the Muppets, Jimmy Stewart, claymation.
How very uncool am I when it comes to the holidays. Here's proof.
My top five Christmas albums:
- Christmas Swing (Various Artists). It's an album that was sadly but unsurprisingly discontinued. I found it in a bargain bin for $5. But it's chock full of fantastic, big-band swing versions of great holiday classics. And the artists don't play it safe or aim for pleasant. They go big. If you can find a copy, grab it.
- A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (Frank Sinatra) You can never, ever go wrong with Frank, unless you're talking about 80 year-old Frank who didn't know it was time to hang up his mic.
- White Christmas (Bing Crosby) What can I say? It's a classic.
- Christmas Collection: 20th Century Masters (Willie Nelson) I'm a Texan. One musical constant in my life growing up was Willie Nelson. So it makes sense that his Christmas songs are a staple in my house. Sadly, the album is out of print but you can still pick up the MP3 version online.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (Vince Guaraldi) I've never really understood the appeal of the old Charlie Brown TV specials. They always seemed vaguely depressing to me. But the music? It doesn't get much better than Vince Guaraldi. And the music for the Charlie Brown Christmas special is maybe his finest work.
(Sweet baby jesus, I've already gone through five? And I didn't have a chance to mention my awesome John Denver Christmas album? What? Did I say that out loud?)
My top five Christmas movies:
- White Christmas. Yeah, I know it's cliche and schlocky but it chokes me up every time and I sincerely love it.
- The Bishop's Wife. One of the great unknown holiday movies, Cary Grant stars in this fantastic flick that would later be remade with Whitney Houston (gah). It's truly magical and wonderful and worth the $8 Amazon is asking for it.
- It's A Wonderful Life. Again, yes, cliche but you can't go wrong inviting Jimmy Stewart into your home for a couple of hours.
- Miracle on 34th Street. The 1947 classic - not the remake.
- All the stop-animation, claymation Christmas specials that seem to star Burl Ives or Bing Crosby.
I think I love these things because they were introduced to me by my parents when I was a kid. They were tradition then and I guess I'm trying to carry on that tradition now. But more importantly than that, these are the things that mean Christmas to me. Even if they are old and uncool.
What are your favorite Christmas albums and movies? And have you broken them out yet?
* And here I think I need to explain that I celebrate Christmas with the full knowledge that some of you don't. But instead of being all sensitive and politically correct and saying holidays with a capital H, I'm just going to stick with Christmas. I'm sure you understand that I'm not trying in the slightest to be religiously, holidayously insensitive.
December 1, 2009
I have a conundrum. No, it's not peeing in the shower again. It's less frivolous than that but only slightly. Though don't think, based on that statement, that I didn't value your input on the whole shower/peeing thing. I did. And I feel validated as a result. Anyway, this week's conundrum? My hair. See, I tend to vacillate between two styles - one in which my hair is kinda long, the other kinda short.
The problem is that I kinda like both and have now reached the point at which I can't decide. So you decide for me - a) long or b) short or c) somewhere in the middle?